Leadership Lifter: Time Management

rick-picby Rick Warren

Ever feel that you don’t have enough time? The simple truth is, you have plenty of time. You just need to learn how to make the most of the time that you do have. If you are going to be effective, you have to learn time management.

Ecclesiastes 8:6 tells us, “…there is a time and a way for everything…” (NLT). The problem is not time, but how you use it. To get mad at your schedule is like getting mad at your bathroom scales. It is not the scale’s fault that you don’t like what it reads. We all have the same amount of time: 168 hours per week. The question is, how are you investing it? We want to learn to manage time wisely so that we don’t end up like the guy who said, “…I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose…Isa 49:4 (NLT).

If you had a bank account and every day someone deposited $86,400 into it that you had to spend or lose, would you let that money go to waste? No. You would draw out every cent and spend it. You have 86,400 seconds in every day. You need to draw them out.  You need to take advantage of them. 

Here are ten ways to start to manage your time.

1. CLARIFY YOUR LIFE OBJECTIVE. Ask yourself…
What did God make me for? Eph 2:10
What does He want me to do? Mt. 20:28
How has He gifted me? Rom 12:3, 1 Peter 4:10

Most people do not have a life objective clearly thought out and they certainly don’t have it written down. Long before you decide what you are going to do this week, you have to figure out where you are going in life. Once you determine that, you have a direction set and choices become easier. There are many things in my life I don’t have to decide on because they were decided when I made a basic commitment in my life to go a certain direction. Consequently, they are not even optional to me. I don’t consider whether I am going to do them next week because I have already made a life decision that determines how I am going to spend my time. 

2. ORGANIZE YOUR LIFE AROUND 5 TO 8 KEY AREAS
Research has proven that our conscious mind becomes stressed when we try to balance more than 7 or 8 Key Areas. Key areas are things such as home, work, play, etc. If you feel out of control, you don’t have a Life Tree. You have never thought – how do all of these things fit into the grand scheme of my purpose? Imagine a tree.  The Trunk is you and the overall goals you have set for your private and work life. The branches are the Key Areas, which are the main areas on which you need to concentrate your efforts to achieve your goals. Remember, you don’t want more than 5-8 key areas. The twigs are the large tasks that you need to do within each area. The leaves are the practical activities and sub items which are part of the performance of each large task. I have eight key areas in my life. I do not use a “to do” list, instead I use my Key Area list. Every Monday morning or Sunday night I sit down and make my schedule by plugging things into my Key Areas.

3. APPLY THE 80/20 RULE (Pareto principle).
Alberto Pareto was an economist in 15th Century Italy. He determined that in a list of ten things to do, two of them are going to produce the most benefit.  Twenty percent of your list is going to produce eighty percent of your benefits. There is a difference between high priority and high payoff. Priority is set by deadlines. Payoff is set by Key Areas. Your job is to discover what your 20% is. 

4. PLAN YOUR WEEK IN 21 SEGMENTS.
Effectiveness comes in the management of large blocks of time. The things that you do well, you will do in extended periods of time. It is better to get two or three hours of Bible study than 15 minutes per day.  I am not talking about devotional time, but intense Bible study. Look at your schedule and start to block your time into 21 segments – 7 days of morning, afternoon, and evening. Then start asking yourself, which of these will I give to ministry, my family, recreation, etc. 

5. GROUP SIMILAR TASKS TOGETHER.
Do tasks such as writing letters or making phone calls all at once. If you call my office, unless it is really important, you probably won’t be able to talk to me. I will call you back. I wait until I have a few calls to make, and then I make them all at once. It wastes less time.

6.LEARN TO CONTROL THE TELEPHONE INSTEAD OF LETTING IT CONTROL YOU.
If you walk around with a cell phone, you need to learn that you don’t have to always answer it right away. People answer when they are in the middle of dinner with others, at a movie, or other inappropriate times. It is okay to not answer and then call people back.

7. LEARN TO SAY NO.
This is a mark of spiritual maturity. The world would be happy to enslave you in all the things it has to do. It will gladly waste your time and energy. You have to learn to say no.

8. WRITE IT DOWN.
If I were to summarize success in one phrase, I would tell you that success is the competent management of good ideas. Everybody has good ideas but successful people know how to manage them. Most people don’t even write them down, so they don’t remember them, let alone manage them.  

9. LEARN TO USE “LOOSE CHANGE” TIME.
One of the ways to save money every day is to take your loose change and put it in a piggy bank. Do the same thing with your time. You have loose change in all of the time that you spend waiting. So when you have five minutes here, 10 minutes there, use that time wisely. I keep a book with me wherever I go. If you will read 15 minutes a day, you will read 12-15 books per year. I’ve taken several college courses in my car. Courses on management, reading, history, etc. I’ve listened to thousands of sermons. I don’t listen to music much, but I do listen to a lot of cd’s with recorded books or classes. Time spent driving is a lot of wasted time. If I go to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription, I don’t stand around for fifteen minutes looking at cold medicine, I go out to my car and listen to a recording of a great teacher or speaker for 15 minutes instead.  

10. GET YOUR REST AND RECREATION.
Make sure that you are well rested and cooperate with your metabolism. “It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones” (NLT). When Jesus would have extended periods of ministry he always got away for extended periods of rest. There is a difference between effectiveness and efficiency. Efficiency is doing things right. Effectiveness is doing the right thing. When you are involving yourself with your personal growth, your family, your ministry, you are doing the right thing.

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